Progress must be measured in small doses for Eric Hosmer, because his malaise the past two months has suppressed his numbers so much. Before the season, the Royals hoped Hosmer could carry this offense, building on his impressive performance in the second half of 2013.
Instead, his production has languished. Heading into Wednesday’s game, his .646 OPS ranked 27th among the 28 first baseman qualified for the batting title. Save for Indians disappointment Nick Swisher, Hosmer has been the least valuable starter at the position in baseball, according to FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement.
It has been a stunning fall for Hosmer, considering his pedigree and his purported progression last season. Throughout this slump, which began in mid-May, manager Ned Yost has stuck by his man. He continues to play Hosmer each day and bat him in the upper third of the lineup. He shot down the idea of a demotion to Class AAA Omaha to clear Hosmer’s head.
Hosmer, he keeps saying, will break out.
Maybe, just maybe, Yost could be right.
During this series in Minnesota, Hosmer showed a few signs of comfort at the plate. He recorded four hits in Tuesday night’s loss. He walked three times on Wednesday and added an RBI single in the ninth inning.
“Putting in some good at-bats, getting on base, not swinging at bad pitches, staying in my zone,” Hosmer said. “That’s really all you can do, especially when you’re scuffling a little bit. You’ve just got to slow things down, make sure you get your pitch. Just try to see the ball well, and see good pitches.”
Will it translate to sustained success?
His manager continues to believe.
“He’s seeing the ball much, much better,” Yost said.
A note on the trade market
One reasonably affordable corner outfielder appears to be off the block. The Padres locked up Seth Smith to a two-year, $13 million extension on Wednesday. Smith banged out an .890 OPS for the Padres heading into the day, and was on a one-year, $4.5 million deal.
It is unclear how keen the Royals are on making a splashy move to fix their hole in right field. The addition of Raul Ibanez provides an interesting option for the time being. Rival executives sound dubious about the club’s ability to add payroll, despite general manager Dayton Moore’s insistence last month the team will not be handcuffed financially.
From The Star
Jason Vargas pitched a minor-key gem, and the Royals won a series at Target Field.
Another day on the middle-relief carousel: Michael Mariot departs, Casey Coleman arrives, and the Royals await the return of Tim Collins and Louis Coleman.
The Royals’ playoff percentage (according to Baseball Prospectus)
Here is some rock music
“St. Joe Keeps Us Safe” by Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties.